Board Member David Ponce de Leon expressed sadness Tuesday over 2nd Palawan District House Rep. Frederick Abueg’s “yes” vote on the initial bill that seeks the lowering of the age of criminal liability to nine years old in the House justice panel.
Abueg voted yes in an earlier version of the bill that downgraded the age of criminal responsibility to nine from 15 years old on January 21 during the first reading.
But due to public clamor, the final version or House Bill No. 8858 that was passed on January 28 raised the age to 12 years old.
Abueg was among the 24 representatives who voted yes in the initial version. Only Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun voted no.
Board Member David Francis Ponce de Leon said it was sad that one of Palawan’s congressmen voted for the bill that would make nine-year-old children criminally liable for their offenses.
“When I read the news, I was very sad because I saw one of our congressmen voted yes,” Ponce de Leon said.
He said this as he campaigned for the support of his colleagues in the approval of his proposed resolution strongly opposing the bill lowering the minimum age of responsibility to 12.
Ponce de Leon said lowering the minimum age from 15 to 12 years old is not a solution to prevent children from committing crimes and from being penalized.
Instead, the government should build more child centers and improve their services, and create additional programs for their effective rehabilitation than penalize them like adult criminals.
“I can’t see the importance of this and nakakatakot ang ganitong bill (…this kind of bill is scary). They are only children, so I filed this resolution and hopefully, all members will support this,” he said.
Another board member, Roseller Pineda, said there is no need to pass the measure because what should be studied and determined are the factors that push children to commit crimes.
He said some of these factors are their environment and the poverty that besets their families.
“Hindi pa dapat i-priority ‘yan na ibaba. Batang-bata pa ‘yan, dapat maipakita o mapag-aralan kung saan nanggagaling ‘yong mga batang nagco-commit ng crime at that age. Dapat ay ma-identify kung ano ba ang kanilang pinagmulan at ‘yon ang dapat na mabigyan ng pansin. Baka nga hindi niya pa alam na krimen na ang ginawa niya. Hindi pa dapat. May parental responsibility pa rin ‘yan,” Pineda explained.
(Lowering the age should not be a priority. It’s an age very, very young; what should be done is to study where these children who commit crimes at that age are from. It should be identified where they’re from and that should be given focus. They probably do not even know that what they’re committing is already a crime. There is parental responsibility also.
On the other hand, board member Winston Arzaga, said children at the age of 12 who are tagged as criminals will only feel trauma and their families will only suffer from the pain.
Even if they are tagged “children in conflict with the law” (CICL), they will still appear as criminals due to stigma.
“Hindi ako in favor d’yan. Batang-bata pa, baby pa ‘yan para matawag na kriminal. Kawawa ang bata kasi hindi na makaka-recover ‘yan, traumatic na ang kalalabasan niyan. Kahit sabihin mo na children in conflict with law, kriminal pa rin na matatawag ‘yan,” Arzaga said.
(I am not in favor of that. It’s very young, or still a baby to be called a criminal. It’s a pity because they won’t be able to recover, and it will only be more traumatic for them. Even if you say they’re children in conflict with the law, they’ll still be called criminals.)
Ponce de Leon’s resolution was approved by the PB.
Here are the salient facts of the bill:
- Children less than 18 years old who are in conflict with the law at the time of their offenses are exempted from criminal liability, but they will be subjected to an intervention program which does not mean that they’re exempted from civil liability.
- If proven that CICL acted with the ability to make sound judgments, they’ll be subjected to appropriate intervention and diversion proceedings.
- If the child is below 12 years old, they will be returned to the custody of their parents or guardians. He/she would be made to undergo a community-based intervention program with the help of a social welfare officer.
- The children in conflict with the law will be penalized two degrees lower compared to when adults commit the same crimes. But if he/she commits an offense where the penalty is equal to life imprisonment, he/she will only be made up to 12 years imprisonment. If at 18 years old he/she is not reformed, he/she would be sent to agricultural camps or training centers. When he/she reaches 25 years old, he/she will be released whether or not he/she is able to complete the sentence. The camps will be supervised by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Bureau of Corrections, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
- The parents/guardians of the CICL will also have to undergo mandatory intervention programs. If they fail to attend, they may face 30 days to six months imprisonment unless their reasons are valid. They would be primarily liable for civil damages caused by the actions of their children in conflict with the law unless they can prove that they exercised “reasonable supervision” over their CICL to stop them from committing offenses.
- Those who will influence the children to commit crimes will face 12 to 20 years imprisonment if the crime of the CICL is equivalent to six years in jail. If the punishment is higher, they would face life imprisonment.